Excerpt from an article by Claudine Ko / New York Post
Rooftop parties in Brooklyn are nothing new. But on a recent beautiful day in Crown Heights, Jessica McNamara is throwing a special kind of open-air wingding — her seasonal honey-extraction party. And, her VIPs (or VIBs), roughly 50,000 European honeybees, are already all abuzz.
The former criminal defense lawyer is outfitted in long sleeves, jeans, boots and a protective veil as she removes the honeycombed frames from her homemade “top-bar” hive. The bees swarm all around her. “More than once, I’ve literally discovered a bee in my pants,” she says.
The 33-year-old quit her job last year, in part to pursue her dream of beekeeping, joining the city’s growing number of “beeks” — 99 people have registered 261 residential honeybee hives since they were legalized in NYC in 2010. (And now the city’s first-ever Honey Week kicks off on Monday. See page 24 for more info.)
Examining the frames of her hives, McNamara says, “You can only harvest when the wax covering is capped.” She uses a soft-bristle comb to gently swipe off clusters of bees, revealing fully capped honeycombs, and places her bounty in a bucket.
“You want to open every cell so the honey will come out,” says McNamara, now standing downstairs in her cramped kitchen between buckets of honey and a giant metal extractor. She scrapes off the wax caps before placing the frames in the centrifuge of the extractor. “All my honey is raw. I never heat it. It’s much easier to manipulate when you heat it, but you lose a lot of nutrients.” She adds the concentrated nectar to her coffee, tea, green drinks, salads or salad dressings over cheese and crackers, on bacon, on waffles, with peanut butter — you name it.
And so far, none of her neighbors seems to mind the striped squatters buzzing about their roof.
Her friend and upstairs neighbor, Larry Mahl, 31, who works at Yelp, helps crank the extractor, spinning the frames until all the honey whips off and into the tank. “I love bragging about this, saying I helped extract the honey,” says Mahl, who isn’t the only neighbor who likes the bees. Another friend, Alexis Cravetz, 31, recalls living with McNamara when she started beekeeping. “I always knew she was crazy,” she says, before showing appreciation for her friend’s eccentric ways. “New York City local honey is so rare.”
Next, McNamara releases the spigot near the bottom of the extractor for the fresh golden honey to run through a wiremesh filter. “This is my favorite part,” she says. “It’s just so beautiful . . . Commercial honey uses microfilters that are so small they filter out the pollen, which is a good source of protein and nutrients,” she says. “This just removes bee parts.”
…“Honey is like wine, the taste differences can be really dramatic,” says McNamara, who sells most of her honey at various street markets and online (honeybeelocal.com), as well as at next weekend’s Honey Fest on the Rockaway Boardwalk. “My honey is really light, minty, and comes from linden trees. They’re all over Brooklyn,” says McNamara…
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